Been thinking a lot about prevention. Nobody likes to do it. The payoff isn’t visible or exciting. If whatever you do is effective, lack of result is the result…and that’s not very satisfying for our brains.

As kids, we probably rolled our eyes at our parent when they insisted we wear a helmet to ride our bike. It’s rare to meet anyone who enjoys going to their annual doctor’s appointment and getting that shot they need (or getting that pelvic or prostate exam you’ve been postponing.) But for our personal health, and the health of our communities, sometimes there are things we just have to do.

As a public health professional, here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that I consider to be good preventative measures. Some are directly helpful for yourself, while others are helpful for everyone around you, too. What would you add?

  • Wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle - helps prevent major injury in the event of a car accident.
  • Wearing a condom for sex - prevents unwanted pregnancy, HIV, STIs.
  • Washing your hands regularly, especially after going to the bathroom or before cooking - prevents the spread of all sorts of disease, like e coli, salmonella, and more.
  • Wearing a good quality mask in indoor public spaces - prevents spread of things like covid or influenza, including preventing the long-term effects of repeated infections.
  • Wearing a good quality mask outdoors when air quality is poor - prevents bad health effects (lung damage, even increased dementia risk long-term) from things like wildfire smoke.
  • Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, or a hat - prevents sunburns, skin damage, and cancer.
  • Wearing bug spray when mosquitos are out - prevents itchy bug bites, but also prevents you from catching things like West Nile Virus, eastern equine encephalitis, dengue, or malaria.
  • Bringing your pet to the vet for regular check-ups and getting them vaccinated - something like a rabies vaccination prevents your pet from getting a deadly disease, but preventative treatment like heartworm medication also prevent spreading these things to other animals in your community (like your pet’s friends.)
  • Cleaning your body regularly - helps prevent things like ringworm, lice, scabies, athlete’s foot…you get the gist.
  • Moving your body regularly - helps prevent heart disease, muscle atrophy, or depression.
  • Brushing your teeth - prevents gingivitis, plaque buildup…and makes it more likely your partner(s) will enjoy giving you a kiss!
  • Even wearing shoes and tying them - that’s preventative behavior that helps us avoid injury from falls or from stepping on something dangerous when we’re out and about.
  • Even things that seem silly, like not parking your car in the middle of the street (or driving under the speed limit!) are things we do for others to keep us all safe.

Can you think of other preventative measures we take regularly? Can you name any ways they were normalized for you, or reasons you are motivated to take these measures?